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Savoring The Wines Of... New England?


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SAVORING THE WINES OF... NEW ENGLAND?

Fine wine isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New England. Maple syrup or apple cider, maybe, but not smooth chardonnays or pungent pinot noirs. Well, surprise: Some of New England's 30 wineries, borrowing cold-weather techniques from California, are producing award-winning wines. Several Vidal Blancs from Sakonnet Vineyards in Rhode Island, for example, won Best of Class at this year's Eastern International Wine Competition in Watkins Glen, N. Y.

BLUEBERRY BOTTLE. The best of the area's grapes grow along the coast, where warm Gulf Stream waters moderate the extreme temperature changes that occur inland. Many wineries use hybrid vines, which are crosses of hearty American grapes with more delicate French or California varieties. Some specialize in fruit wines. Purists may sneer, but Nashoba Valley Winery's Dry Blueberry Wine stands up nicely to veal or lamb, says Daniel Bruce, chef of the Boston Harbor Hotel.

New England wines rarely can match their West Coast counterparts. The whites tend to be light and snappy. Reds are mild and fruity; few are full-bodied or complex. Still, with age and experience, New England wineries are improving. Some better labels are:

-- 1989 Vidal Blanc (Sakonnet Vineyards, R. I., $8). A dry, full-bodied wine with a rich, smooth flavor. Nice with oysters, says Boston Globe wine writer Harvey Finkel.

-- 1988 Estate Chardonnay (Crosswoods Vineyards, Conn., $13). Crosswoods produces excellent chardonnays from its own and Long Island grapes, says Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide.

-- 1986 Pinot Noir (Diamond Hill Vineyards, R. I., $11). Among the best of the Rhode Island reds, it won a silver medal at the 1989 New England wine competition.

-- Cranberry Grande (Plymouth Colony Winery, Mass., $6). A smooth wine made annually from cranberries in the winery's bogs. Excellent with turkey, and not just because it's made in Pilgrim country.

The biggest problem with New England wines is scarcity. Larger liquor stores in Boston and Providence often stock some selections. A good wine merchant should be able to help with special orders. The best way to sample the wines is to visit the wineries, many of which are open for tours in the summer. For information, write: The New England Wine Council, c/o North River Winery, River Road, Route 112, Jacksonville, Vt. 05342.EDITED BY AMY DUNKIN


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